Digital dermatitis (DD) is the most important infectious claw disorder in dairy cattle and herd-based foot bathing with antibacterials, such as 4% formalin, is often used to prevent it. However, there is a lack of long-term studies of the effectiveness of such regimes and in this study the preventive and curative effect of 4% formalin was compared with that of an acidified, ionized copper sulphate solution over a 4-month period on a commercial 120-cow dairy farm. The cows were walked through a split-leg footbath where left claws were treated with an acidified copper solution twice daily for 5 days/week, while right claws were treated with 4% formalin twice daily for 1 day/every second week. Hind claws were scored for the presence and severity of DD in a trimming chute at the start of the study and every 4 weeks throughout the study period. At the start of the study 21/110 cows had ulcerative DD lesions with 10 on the left hind foot, 8 on the right and 3 on both. These lesions, as well as any new lesions which arose during the study, were treatedwith chlortetracycline spray. During the study 440 observations were made and seven new DD lesionswere recorded on left feet (copper treated) and 20 on right feet (formalin treated). Based on survival analysis, the risk of developing a new ulcerative DD lesion on copper-treated (left hind) feet was almost three times less (RR = 0.37, 95% CI 0.16–0.91) than formalin-treated (right hind) feet. Cure rates of DD lesions were not different between copper and formalin.
- level risk-factors